Greeting is an art. That first impression will open to door to cement relationships in a powerful way. Welcoming someone is all about the other person, not our schedule, disposition or comfort level. When we greet others we communicate their value and our approachability. It is interesting to note that Jesus was so approachable during His walk on earth that everyone – children, sinners, outcasts – sensed that He was accessible.
People feel comfortable being around us if we take time to open the door with a warm, sincere greeting. I try to remember these suggestions:
1. Prioritize people over things. Whatever time and energy it takes to properly and adequately greet people is worth the investment.
2. Take the initiative to greet people first. Don’t wait for others to greet you.
3. As much as possible, greet people one at a time, not as a group.
4. Greet everyone in the group so as not to show favoritism. Jesus taught, “And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” (Matt. 5:47)
5. We should make an effort to greet even those we see every day – family members and co-workers – to affirm the health of our relationships.
6. Greet people for the right reasons, not for what we can get out of it. “Working the crowd” is quite different from being genuinely interested. Our motivation for greeting others should be pure and unselfish.
7. Making eye contact communicates that we are solely focused on the other person.
8. Smile! It costs nothing and sets the stage for a warm, sincere, effective greeting.
9. Develop a greeting vocabulary, comments appropriate to different situations.
10. Call the person by name, or find it out. Use the person’s name often. It is a beautiful sound to the recipient.
11. When greeting someone for the first time, give your name. It suggests that you want to establish a relationship.
12. Physically acknowledge the person with a handshake, pat on the back or embrace depending on the relationship.
13. Use a friendly tone of voice and convey a warm demeanor. See item 8!
14. Greeting conversation may seem superficial, but these generic comments usually segue into more serious, personalized topics. It is important to speak the polite greetings with sincerity.
15. Show interest in the person by demonstrating a sincere desire to know them. Sometimes we work too hard trying to get the other person to be interested in us.
16. If appropriate, introduce the person you are greeting to someone else in the group. Stay with the person so he doesn’t feel like he’s been “handed off” and then deserted.
17. When face-to-face greetings aren’t possible, use other methods – phone, email, letter, fax. A personal greeting is always preferred, but extending the message of friendship can come many ways in our technologically savvy world. Quick phone call greetings allow us to stay in touch with many acquaintances.
18. Be sensitive to the appropriate greeting for the circumstances. I once called someone with a spirited greeting only to discover in the next moments he was grieving over the recent death of a loved one. “Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.” (Prov. 25:20)
19. Organizations, like churches, should provide opportunities and places for people to greet one another. Greeting times during worship services may seem contrived and obligatory, so make sure there are opportunities to have follow-up welcome times and places that are not orchestrated.
A sincere greeting communicates our desire to be friendly and helps to preserve the health of a relationship. The absence of acknowledgement can send mixed and negative messages. If I walk past my assistant’s desk without greeting her, she may wonder if I am upset or if she has done something to upset me.
Luke 15 tells the beautiful story of the prodigal son. Note the father’s response to the news that his son is coming home. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20) By his greeting the father takes the initiative to show that his intention is for a healed relationship.
Daily we have opportunities to impact the lives of others beginning with a simple greeting. When life seems on fast forward, remember that, in any situation, the most important commodity is people. I would be interested in experiences you can share regarding the value of personal greetings. How effective is this in your church or organization?
Don McMinn, Ph.D. (with Kimberly Spring)
Executive Director of theiPlace.org
The 11th Commandment: Experiencing the One Anothers of Scripture